Why now’s the perfect time to watch Babylon Berlin

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By Caitlin Kelly

 

A frightened world!

The economy in chaos!

Bitter nostalgia for lost glories

The rise of a silent-but-deadly threat soon to destroy the world as we knew it (in this case, Nazism, not COVID-19)

 

It all rings a little too close to home right now…

This three-season series has long been one of my favorite shows ever — and the most expensive European TV series made.

And for those newly hungry for fresh viewing content, these three seasons offer 28 episodes.

In 1929 — a year with plenty of fiscal and political nightmares — a Cologne detective named Gereon Rath moves to big bad Berlin to work with their vice squad, soon aided by Charlotte Ritter, a young woman sharing a squalid flat with her parents, grandparents, sister and brother-in-law and baby and younger sister. To earn money to keep them alive and housed, she works nights as a prostitute in the basement of Moka Efti, an enormous nightclub owned by the Armenian, a local crime boss.

The show offers many sub-plots and terrific characters, from the Berlin boarding-house owner, war widow Miss Elizabeth, to a braid-headed, firebrand, female Communist doctor to the creepy rich son playing profiteering games with wily Russians.

There’s Svetlana Sorokin, who’s desperate to get her hands on a train car filled with gold and who — of course — sings at Moka Efti disguised as a man with black hair and moustache. Greta Overbeck’s work as a housemaid to a wealthy, Jewish Berlin politician drives a major plot point.

There’s a driven journalist, (of course!), much trading of favors and access, the enormous gap between the wealthy and the desperate.

Every element is visually powerful: the impeccably Art Deco dining room of Moka Efti, with its room-length aquarium filled with pulsating jellyfish, gorgeous period automobiles and clothes, interiors filled with period furniture, wallpaper, lighting.

If you’ve ever been to Berlin — I finally spent 10 days there in July 2017 — it’s very cool to see elements of it: from its cobblestone streets to the subway to one of the many lakes where Berliners spend long sunny summer days swimming and boating and relaxing.

Sadly, the show also now feels much more relevant now with its themes of social unrest, widespread fear, no reliable political leadership, undercurrents of racist, nationalist fervor.

 

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More on Liv Lisa Fries, who plays Charlotte Ritter.

 

From The New Yorker:

 

The show plays as part period drama, part police procedural, and part mystery thriller, but there is always an undercurrent of foreboding, drawing on our knowledge of what’s to come. Hitler’s name is heard only once in all sixteen episodes; Nazi Brown Shirts first appear in one of the last. The opening lines of the show’s haunting song “Zu Asche, Zu Staub” (“To Ashes, to Dust”) capture the era’s troubled Zeitgeist: “To ashes, to dust / Taken away from the light / But not just yet / Miracles wait until the last.”

Here it is:

 

I hope you’ll check it out — and enjoy!

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “Why now’s the perfect time to watch Babylon Berlin

  1. I started on this one at season 1, I believe at your recommendation, but lost the thread. I’ll likely pick it back up when I finish Sherlock. Please don’t tell me you haven’t seen this.
    After reading this post and the one before, a question arose in my mind: What makes this scenario less terrifying than, say, the Exorcist? Consider turning a trick. It’s often dangerous, always degrading and can subvert a person’s free will as well as Captain Howdy ever could.
    By the thirties, Berlin was equal parts monstrous and beautiful,, placing it, as a setting,, at an advantage over a little girl’s bedroom in Georgetown. I’m guessing this is pretty close to my answer.
    I’m digging into my library in search of comedy, but tonight’s going to be special. We’re inviting a bunch of people we barely know to come and party with us in the hot tub. We’re going to drink a lot of wine, passing the bottle, and throw rolls of burning toilet paper at passing cars. Good times.
    I hope you guys are having as much as me.

      1. Well, yeah I’m kidding. You gotta be able to laugh. I don’t get out much even during non Apocalypse days and Cathy’s still working at the library, so my daily dose of isolation stays constant.
        I don’t feel much like dealing with anything heavy right now, so movies and TV are right on point for some lighthearted social interaction. Good one, thanks a lot.

  2. Ugh..you and my husband!!! 😩 This looks waay too dark for me– I need comedy.. nothing but laughs..pink cotton candy fluff for my never-ending, stress-induced headache.

      1. You sure? I’ll be under the table for a week if I’m “triggered”- (always wanted to use that word in a sentence..) 😉 Netflix?

      2. I can’t promise anything!

        The Weimar period is crazy…and there are some violent scenes, given the subject matter. But they don’t feel dominant to me.

        But to each his/her own!

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